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MN Big-Game Hunter May Have Few Ways To Fight Extradition To Zimbabwe

Walter Palmer, the wealthy big-game hunter and Minnesota dentist who killed a famous lion, could be headed back to Africa if the Zimbabwe government has its way, the Washington Post reports. Officials in Zimbabwe said they intended to press ahead with a request to extradite Palmer for killing a lion known as Cecil outside a sanctuary where the animal was protected. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said a representative for Palmer “voluntarily reached out to the service” and that its “investigation is ongoing.” Legal experts said Palmer doesn’t have many options to fight a return to Zimbabwe to face trial. “Once Zimbabwe provides a charge, it depends on how fast the U.S. moves,” said Stephen Vladeck, an American University law professor who specializes in international affairs.

Palmer’s lawyers could cite the poor condition of Zimbabwe’s prisons, a humanitarian concern, as a reason to deny extradition. The prisons were recently described as a “hellhole” by the Zimbabwe Independent, a daily business newspaper. “I think it could factor into the State Department’s analysis,” said Jens David Ohlin, an expert in international and criminal law at Cornell University. U.S. officials “could decide the prison conditions are too harsh and we don’t want our citizens to spend time in jail there.”The  extradition process could take years to play out. If a federal court approves Zimbabwe’s request to extradite him, Palmer could appeal the decision. If he were to lose on appeal, the State Department would make the final decision. Ohlin said the State Department would be hard-pressed to turn down a formal extradition request from Zimbabwe. If it did, Zimbabwe could become a sanctuary for criminals who flee crimes committed in the United States.

 

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Obama Plan To Test Pell Grants For Inmates Already Has Opposition

The Obama administration moved today to make state and federal prisoners eligible for Pell grants, reversing a two-decade-old policy that was a signature of the “tough on crime” era, Politico reports. The plan already has critics in Congress: A House bill introduced yesterday, the Kids Before Cons Act, would ban the Education Department from its plan to pilot the idea. “The administration absolutely does not have the authority to do this without approval from Congress,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate education committee, which is working to reauthorize the law Obama is bypassing. That law — the Higher Education Act — is where the Education Department found the authority to proceed with its pilot program. It allows the department to conduct limited “experiments” with federal financial aid waivers. The experimental site, dubbed the Second Chance Pell Pilot, will measure the effects of restoring access to Pell grants for prisoners, including whether it leads to jobs. It’s not clear how much the project will cost or how many prisoners would benefit.

“For the money we currently spend on prison, we could provide universal pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old in America or double the salary of every high school teacher in the country,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are — it can also be a cost-saver for taxpayers.” Meanwhile, former Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), a sponsor of the 1994 law ending Pell grants for prisoners, told the Washington Post that the ban was meant in part to ensure that federal money was not wasted on “sham schools” operating for profit inside prisons. Gordon knew the son of a Tennessee police officer who was unable to obtain a Pell grant. It seemed unfair to Gordon that the man couldn’t get a Pell grant while inmates could. “This was not a ‘beat-up’ on criminals,” Gordon said. “This was an attempt to get better use of the limited amount of Pell grant money.”

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U.S. Charges Racial Bias, Poor Handling Of Teen Cases In St. Louis County

The St. Louis County Family Court deprives juveniles of constitutional rights, treats black youths more harshly than whites and is rife with conflicts of interest, the U.S. Justice Department charged today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The U.S. will seek a mutual agreement to resolve the violations, but otherwise could litigate. The action is similar to a different Justice Department report issued in March that was highly critical of police and municipal court practices in Ferguson. The new case charges that juveniles do not get adequate legal representation, are held without proper determination of probable cause and may be allowed to plead guilty without clearly grasping the consequences.

The federal report says youths are denied an informal handling of their cases, the desirable course for them, unless they confess wrongdoing, which may "coerce" them into admitting something they did not do. The researchers found that nearly four out of five cases were handled informally, or referred to alternatives such as victim restitution, drug counseling and educational programs. They said blacks are not given as much opportunity to benefit. The report says that adjusted for factors other than race, black youths are 2½ times more likely than whites to be detained before trial and three times more likely to be sent to the Division of Youth Services on parole violations."I think there are concerns about the operation of juvenile justice systems around the country, but the peer analysis highlighted for us that certainly along the racial disparities line, St. Louis County stood out," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta..

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Police Video, "C-Span Of The Streets," Seen Eroding Confidence In Officers

Videos involving white officers shooting black civilians have become ingrained in the nation’s consciousness. While they represent just a tiny fraction of police behavior, and those that show respectful, peaceful interactions do not make the 24-hour cable news, they have begun to alter public views of police use of force and race relations, experts and police officials tell the New York Times. Videos have provided “corroboration of what African Americans have been saying for years,” said Georgetown University law Prof. Paul Butler, a former prosecutor, who called them “the C-Span of the streets.” Yesterday, the family of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was shot to death by a University of Cincinnati police officer on July 19, said the officer would not have been prosecuted if his actions had not been captured by the body camera the officer was wearing.

The police face new challenge in trying to regain public confidence. “Every time I think maybe we’re past this and we can start rebuilding, it seems another incident occurs that inflames public outrage,” said James Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Police officers literally have millions of contacts with citizens every day, and in the vast majority of those interactions, there is no claim of wrongdoing, but that’s not news.” A Gallup survey in June found that 52 percent of people said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, down from 57 percent two years earlier, and 64 percent in 2004. In 2007, 37 percent of Americans had high confidence that their local police would treat blacks and whites equally, said the Pew Research Center found, but last year that was down to 30 percent.

 

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DEA Loses Congressional Clout, Senate Panel Gives Legal Pot Biz A Boost

Capping a long losing streak in Congress, the once-untouchable Drug Enforcement Administration suffered another indignity when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted, 16-14, in favor of legal, recreational marijuana, Politico reports. It was an amendment to allow marijuana businesses access to federal banking services, a landmark shift that will help states like Colorado, where pot is legal, to integrate marijuana into their economies. It marked the first time that either house of Congress has voted to advance legislation concerning legal marijuana. “The amendment was a necessary response to an absurd regulatory morass,” said Montana Sen. Steve Daines, one of the three Republicans to support the amendment.

Just last year, then-DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart dismissed President Obama’s views on marijuana in public and got away with it because she had friends in Congress. Her friends rapidly disappeared over various missteps and she left the agency. Then the House committee overseeing the Justice Department's budget cut DEA funding by $23 million, including slashing the marijuana eradication unit budget in half and shutting down the DEA bulk data collections program. Politico concludes that, "The string of setbacks, cuts and handcuffs for the DEA potentially signals a new era for the ... agency—a sign that the national reconsideration of drug policy might engulf and fundamentally alter DEA’s mission." “The DEA is no longer sacrosanct,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.)





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